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Topic: Help on Macbeth
Message: Posted by: wikiro (Mar 15, 2003 04:17PM)
I am doing a research paper on the occult and how it relates to Shakespeare's [i]Macbeth[/i]. Does anyone have any tips or magic tricks that can help me present the paper?
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Mar 15, 2003 08:11PM)
Lady Macbeth losing it

The play is really not so much about the occult. The guy has a pushy wife and ignores the wise counsel of the three (kindly ones) who try to warn him.
You might try something like the 'open prediction' and the slate trick with three covers and the part that moves.

fair is foul
Birnham wood
not born of woman
Message: Posted by: Sir T (Mar 15, 2003 08:38PM)
Let me see, it has been ages since I read this play, but a boy father was murdered and the ghost comes back. Hmmm... Call me weird, but a seance would be fun. Hehehehe.

Kevin :kitty:
Message: Posted by: cfrye (Mar 16, 2003 12:53AM)
There's the famous "Is this a dagger, which I see before me, the handle toward my hand?" soliloquy in Act II, Scene 1. If you have access to Impromptu Ghost Glass fluid, you could draw the outline of a dagger on a sheet of plastic, on glass, or (best of all) on a mirror, display it after, "I see thee yet, in forme as palpable, as this which now I draw." That way you get the double meaning of the drawn dagger on the mirror and the dagger drawn from your belt.

On "There's no such thing: it is the bloody business, which informs thus to mine eyes," you could squeeze a sponge or dropper with fake blood so it runs over the drawing of the dagger.

I would also recommend cutting the monologue at that point. The remainder has lots of references that were common knowledge in Shakespeare's day but are arcane today.

If you want to focus on the occult, you can mention the Greek goddess Hecate, who is invoked later in the same speech. Type in "Hecate" at http://www.google.com/ and you'll get plenty of reference material.

There is also the theatrical superstition, which I follow when I'm in a production, not to mention Macbeth by name. We call it "The Scottish Play" or, if we're particularly daring, "Maccers". Part of the reason for the superstition is that Shakespeare is rumored to have used bits of real witches' incantations "boil, boil, toil and trouble" and such. Also, many productions of the play were beset by accidents.

Best of luck!
Message: Posted by: drwilson (Mar 16, 2003 07:21AM)
Kevin/Sir T, that's Hamlet. The ghost in Macbeth is Banquo, whom Macbeth has had murdered. The ghost appears at a banquet, but only Macbeth can see the ghost.

A fantastic resource on the play, Macbeth, is the book, "Witches and Jesuits" by Garry Wills. This completely changed my perspective on the play, which I know very well.

The play has its origins in the Hollingshead chronicles. Among the more interesting beliefs of the time was the belief that if a murderer was brought into the presence of the body of the victim, the body would begin to bleed anew. This actually figures in the chronicles, as the killers seek to avoid proximity to the body lest they be revealed. If you are a bizarrist and have a good supply of cleaning materials and a wet vac, you might explore this.

Macbeth at one point regrets "mine eternal jewel/Given to the common enemy of man," that is, his soul to the Devil. This seems to be fairly easy to arrange, with no particular knowledge of the occult required. Consider Lady Macbeth's amazing soliloquy:

The raven himself is hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements. Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood;
Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
The effect and it! Come to my woman's breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances
You wait on nature's mischief! Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,
To cry 'Hold, hold!'

This does not appear to work completely for her, as she succumbs to guilt and madness after the deed. The witches, however, appear to have made a more formal pact with the forces of darkness, and hence are granted greater powers. Evidence of their pact would be a line of the First Witch:

"Say, if thou'dst rather hear it from our mouths,
Or from our masters?" (Act IV, 1)

Macbeth prefers the masters, and they bring on the prophetic apparitions.

So their powers include:

1. Prophesy. The first set, in the opening of the play, sets the action in motion. Macbeth is hailed with titles that he has not yet received. One is granted him immediately after the witches depart, leading him to aspire to the crown. The later, deadly prophesies are the "no man of woman born" and "Birnham wood" prophesies. Banquo's sons, incidentally, did become kings of Scotland, as predicted.

2. Control of the weather. In Act I, 3, one of the witches boasts of how she will torment a sailor because his wife would not share roasted chestnuts with her. She says that she will sail to him in a sieve, which was a showy way that witches were believed to be able to travel; this is control of the element water.

3. Appearances and disappearances. Again, Act I, 3:


The earth hath bubbles, as the water has,
And these are of them. Whither are they vanish'd?


Into the air; and what seem'd corporal melted
As breath into the wind. Would they had stay'd!


Were such things here as we do speak about?
Or have we eaten on the insane root
That takes the reason prisoner?

4. Spirit summoning, as mentioned above.

The full text may be seen at:


See also:

1. Compendium Maleficarum: The Montague Summers Edition, Francesco Maria Guazzo. This was written in 1608, so it is contemporaneous with Shakespeare's Macbeth.

2. The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age, Frances Amelia Yates. This can give you a modern perspective on the occult in Elizabethan England.

As for tips on presenting the paper, perhaps you should stop short of having the apparition of a bloody head read it aloud. These days it would also be a poor idea to have your instructor decode a cryptic message allowing him or her to discover kegs of gunpowder below the classroom (read the book by Gary Wills to see how this bears on the play).

Good luck!


Message: Posted by: Necromancer (Mar 17, 2003 09:43AM)
Impressive scholarship, Dr. Wilson. I think you may have just written Wikiro's paper.
Message: Posted by: drwilson (Mar 17, 2003 03:35PM)
Dear Neil,

Thanks for your kind words. I never thought of this site as a term paper service, but why not?

Every bizarrist should study this play in minute detail. It is my favorite Shakespeare play, and besides being crammed with the supernatural, it is a map of how a failure of the moral sense can lead us into darkness.

The language is also magnificent. How about this for a bizarre routine:

Light thickens; and the crow
Makes wing to the rooky wood:
Good things of day begin to droop and drowse;
While night's black agents to their preys do rouse.

Night's black agents, of course, being the very same "spirits /That tend on mortal thoughts"

In Elizabethan England, the forces of darkness seemed to be at every elbow. It was much easier to do bizarre magick then!


Message: Posted by: samthemagical (Mar 17, 2003 09:29PM)
I love MacBeth. For those of you who are short of attention, try 'Five Minute Orlando Macbeth.' I can't find a version online. Look under light verse at your library.

Anyway, you might try the most basic seance. Simply use your words to create a ghost (Banquo, Macbeth, heck, half the cast is dead by the end!). It is what Shakespeare does, and though few are as great as the Bard, it is not hard to do.

I would make it unplanned. Begin merely with body language and then let yourself fall into speaking of/to/around the ghost. See Hamlet's scene when scolding his mother. He begins engrossed in what he is saying, then sees the ghost of his father. Then he speaks distractedly, his eyes staring at nothing. He mentions the ghost, en passant. He then talks to the ghost, yells at it, ignores all else, and his fire words die as the ghost vanishes. Of course, it was never there, but the WORDS give you the knowledge and belief of its presence and disappearance.

This may be a little much for a project, but it never hurts to creep out the teacher!
Message: Posted by: wikiro (Mar 19, 2003 05:20PM)
Oh my gosh, you guys are fantastic-Wilson, you especially. That will help a lot on my paper. I thank you so much for taking your time reading this book. I know Shakespeare's stuff is hard to understand at points but you all really came through. I love it.

This is my first draft, I know I didn't do well but I’m sleepy. I’ll be much obliged by your remarks and criticisms.

The occult is in many places and forms. A life of occultism can bring torment and evil. The famous playwright Shakespeare knew this. Shakespeare used his knowledge of the occult to create his play Macbeth. A play filled with ominous beings such as Hecate and an emulation of the three witches from Hercules. This play can't in a million years be enamored for its cruel joke on a man named Macbeth.

In the play, Macbeth shows how death can be the only outcome to believing in the occult.
The history of the occult dates back to Egyptians and Babylonian times. The belief in magic, witchcraft, and spiritualism were some of the top beliefs. Magic, to the Catholics, meant occultism and strict evil; which killed some and ruined others. (Such as Arendzen.) But the belief stayed strong.

People wanted an easy road to life, and this is what they thought brought them that road. Magic was the belief in summoning, divination, evocation, and enchanting. Believers in magic believed they could summon creatures, evacuate lightening, divine thoughts and even curse items.

The witches in Macbeth had all these abilities. Witchcraft was another belief; it had its own abilities as well as magic. To make two people love each other, to raise the dead (necromancy), to kill an annoying person, and to make someone go insane. (Thurston) All these abilities are given to witches, but only at a price from a being of the utmost darkness. Hecate, who was added to the play, was a goddess of magic and she brought about witches.

The price of such magical abilities was one’s soul. Not only were witches without a soul, but also hated by religious people. (Thurston) They were shunned from all society. That's why it made Macbeth look perfidious when talking to the witches in the play. He showed he had no morals or anything to lose. It set up the reason why he could kill so easily.

Now, spiritualism was an ability that the witches of the play possessed. They showed the future to Macbeth through specters and spirits. He also saw spirits in chairs, and heard voices after his experience with the occult; bringing about aberration in the story. These three types of occultism brought Macbeth to insanity.

Shakespeare, being Catholic; knew the evils of occultism. So he displayed his thoughts through his play Macbeth. He shows how such a trusty noble soldier as Macbeth can become such a supercilious malefactor, at the sight of occultism.

To the occult, some say: "This objective realm of evil was not governed by mere vague and irrational forces; it was people led and controlled by the intelligences - evil spirits, devils, demons, Satan - who had the ability to project their power into the workings of nature, and to influence the human spirit." ("Supernatural")

People that talk about Shakespeare's play say "This supernatural element certainly cannot in most cases, if in any, be explained away as an illusion in the mind of one of the characters." ("B") Catholics believed people caught doing witchcraft should be put to death. (Thurston.) That's also why the witches in Macbeth were considered inauspicious, and better left alone. This brings about the reason why Shakespeare chose the witches to demonstrate occultism and it evils.

Specters also played a big role in this story and it showed how spiritualism could bring insanity. Banquo’s ghost was one big point. Macbeth kept shouting at it till everyone knew he was out among the clouds as they say. Also, the specters that told him the future were not of decent form. A bloody head, a bloody child, child with crown and a tree (demonstrating the king’s position as dangerous), and a line of kings to the future- they had nothing good to tell Macbeth, unless they were in bloody form.

Alchemy, another occult study, was based on potions and herbs in Macbeth. When the witches said "Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble" they're around a cauldron performing alchemy. This demonstrates how far these witches have to go to have a spell cast. They are very busy, and work all the time; and that is what Shakespeare points out about the witches- that since they gave their souls, they have to do labor all day for their master.

Animism is another belief in Macbeth that is only supported by the familiars; owned by the witches, and also the ingredients put into the cauldron. Why put them in, if they don't have a specific meaning? The meaning shown from the frog’s body parts and other animals have a soul, as one believes in animism. The witches show their evil by taking innocent souls, and burning them as Hecate orders. Shakespeare added this because he knew all this would add up to the audience or book reader. This is the best reason why Shakespeare uses the witches to show how occult is evil.

The idea, employed by Shakespeare, was that the evils of the occult were well shown. He used all types of occultism to demonstrate his point. The only problem though- he is dead, and we can’t really ask him about it. For all we know, he could have wrote the play on the basis of the famous mentalist Girolamo Scotto.

The witches were mentalists, and Scotto was a really popular mentalist at the time he even performed for Queen Elizabeth. (Christopher 22) Now the point must be ended, and Shakespeare's criticisms stopped because he is dead. He can't teach us much.
Message: Posted by: eddieloughran (Apr 18, 2003 07:50AM)
I enjoyed the essay, but I'm not sure that Shakespeare was a Catholic. I've heard the theory, but I don't think its been proved. It would certainly have shortened his career.
Message: Posted by: kaytracy (Apr 18, 2003 02:55PM)
Hmmm, as I recall from my high school days, and doing a few scenes, "What!? will these hands n'er be clean...."
Here is a little something I learned in boot making school for taking pedographs....
You could use a piece of goldenrod paper, (writing on it optional) and in dismay, grab -open handed- or place the open hand (previously dampened with a dilute baking soda solution from a small sponge) upon the surface, resulting in a blood red hand mark appearing. Okay so the mark is on the paper and not the hand, but you are clean, with no color on you! Do not get your hand dripping, unless you are using a vertical surface and want the drips to run....mwua ha haaaa.
The mark will stay on the paper by the way, a gentl souveneir/reminder of hte madness! :alien:
Message: Posted by: wikiro (Apr 19, 2003 05:26AM)
That's the rough draft. I'll have the final copy on here soon. I just read it over, and I personally don't like it.